The state is aiming for a “tracking arrow” symbol that is ubiquitous in non-recyclable products

The recycling symbol, one of the most famous logos of the last half century, will be thrown soon.

California will be the second state to limit the use of the well-known “tracking arrow” symbol. The state legislature is trying to pass a bill that criminalizes the symbolization of non-recyclable items as determined by the state’s environmental regulators.

In doing so, it is a task force to remove the “tracking arrow” symbol from plastic containers and examine ecolabels as part of a drastic law that makes packers more responsible for their waste. Continue to the adjacent Oregon that is creating. In May, New York submitted a bill to eliminate three arrows from non-recyclable items.

Forty years after the concept of recycling became mainstream, these states acknowledge what environmentalists have been saying for decades. Most of the plastic products are burned or sent to landfills. Items such as zip lock bags, yogurt cups, prescription bottles, clear beverage cups and plastic films can only be recycled at a few processing facilities in several cities across the country. The California bill guarantees that these items will not get the “tracking arrow” symbol unless the state confirms that most of them have really been collected and turned into new plastic products.

John Joseber, director of marine campaigns at Greenpeace USA, told CBS MoneyWatch that “there is a very widespread problem that companies are essentially lying to their customers about the recyclability of their products and packages. “. “This California bill is a big step towards ending the’greenwashing’of plastic recycling. “

“Incredible confusion”

Nationwide consumer confusion over what’s in the Recycle Bin is a big problem for those responsible for collecting and sorting recycling.

When New York established the Sustainable Materials Management Center earlier this year, its top priority was to address the “incredible confusion about the recycling symbol and recycling,” said Kate, the center’s project director. Walker said.

According to a recent survey, more than two-thirds of Americans mistakenly believe that plastic products with the recycling symbol can be recycled. One-fifth of respondents say recycling is more confusing than paying taxes or playing in the stock market.

Kristang Mitchell, secretary-general of the Oregon Waste Recycling Association, told state legislators in March: A bill to remove the recycling symbol from plastic.

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Powerful symbol

The reason for the confusion is the resin identification code. Numbers from 1 to 7 surrounded by tracking arrows that have been displayed on plastic products since the early 1990s. Almost 40 states have adopted legislation requiring these codes on almost all plastic products. However, these laws were the result of a 2020 survey by National Public Radio and quiet lobbying from the plastics industry, according to the 2005 book Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage.

Environmentalists almost immediately opposed the code and displayed it on the packaging, complaining that consumers misunderstood that the item was not recyclable but was recyclable. By the mid-1990s, the state had begun to abolish the law.

The Society of Plastics Industry (SPI), an industry group, states that the industry develops resin codes under “legislative pressure” and the numbers do not indicate recyclability, but what type of plastic the object is made from. He said it was just for identification.

Indeed, resin identification codes were born before plastic recycling became an issue. “Plastic recycling was really in its infancy when the code was developed,” reads a 1993 white paper prepared by SPI and the National Recycling Council. “The arrow helped indicate that the container is potentially recyclable.”

NPR and Frontline say that since the 1970s, insiders in the plastics industry have suspected that large-scale recycling would be possible. But it was a good marketing strategy. “If the public thinks recycling is working, they won’t be too worried about the environment,” former SPI president Larry Thomas told NPR. (SPI recently changed its brand name as the Plastics Industry Association.)

The first step to a distant dream

Decades later, America is far from the dream of large-scale recycling. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, less than 9% of plastic waste generated in 2018 was recycled. According to a study published in Science Advances that year, less than one-tenth of human-made plastics have been recycled so far.

Once upon a time, China, the largest destination for American plastic waste, has begun. Reject it in 2018, The state was under pressure to come up with a better disposal solution.

Recycling proponents will find California legislation easier for the state to track what is actually being recycled and devise more environmentally friendly packages such as paper, biodegradable packages, and truly recyclable plastics. I hope to put pressure on the company.

“This is an opportunity,” said Kate Walker of the New York State Sustainable Materials Management Center. “People are upset and they insist and pressure these companies to develop recyclable items.”

Other recycling advocates say labeling is only the first step.

“It’s great to have consistent, clear, and easy-to-understand labels, but what’s particularly lacking in these bills is putting them in control of the material and the producers who put it out. “Sydney Harris, policies and programs, said. Manager of the Product Stewardship Institute, which upheld the Oregon Producer Liability Act.

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The plastic industry association, which opposes the California bill, said the law “reduces recycling and increases landfill material.”

According to the industry, plastics are irreplaceable for some applications, such as packaging fresh food. “Alternatives cost more for SMEs (more than 94% in some places), and the environmental impact of alternatives such as paper packaging and metals consumes more resources and emits more carbon. “The group’s state government secretary general, Shannon Crawford, told the California State Council in June.

The industry is calling on the government to recycle more types of plastics and fund research and development to open up those markets. The advertising bill “will make it nearly impossible to open up a final market for materials that are not designated as recyclable on the first day,” Crawford said.

But environmentalists say that’s exactly the point. The labeling bill only changes the labeling to comply with the reality that recycling has not saved the planet from large amounts of plastic waste after decades of research and legislative efforts.

“We will be able to have more realistic conversations about disposable packages, especially disposable plastics,” said Joseber of Greenpeace. “There are very few types of plastic packaging that are recycled. If people understand that, I think they will be even louder by demanding better options.”

The state is aiming for a “tracking arrow” symbol that is ubiquitous in non-recyclable products

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